Nigeria’s Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has warned that the ongoing “ethnic cleansing” in some parts of the country could degenerate into a genocide if the government fails to take a decisive action.
In a statement to commemorate this year’s May Day, Mr Soyinka called on President Muhammadu Buhari to issue a nationwide order to all land-usurpers in affected towns and villages across the nation to quit those forcefully occupied lands within 48 hours.
“Issue orders to the military and police that, wherever illegal occupiers are found, they should be meted the same treatment as are accorded terrorists. Instruct all agencies that, once cleared of usurpers, the rightful occupants should be escorted back to their farmsteads and villages and provided maximum protection,” said Mr Soyinka, a professor of Literature.
“We must go beyond arresting a token handful of herders caught with arms – there are still hundreds of them in the forests. It is not enough to back the anti- open grazing laws, so late in the day, but we shall leave that for later.
“Right now, the violated and dispossessed demand restitution, and with no further delay or subterfuge. All available forces should be deployed to right a hideous, unprecedented wrong that has left the nation drowning in blood – we simply cannot continue one day longer to endure this forceful feeding of human blood.
“The plain expression is ‘ethnic cleansing’ and we must not beat around the bush. The shade of Rwanda hangs over the nation.”
Mr. Soyinka likened Nigeria to an aircraft that is about to crash because its captain is missing, and “strangers are in control in the cockpit.”
One of the buildings set ablaze by soldiers in Benue community. [Photo Credit: Kenneth Kwaghhemba]
He urged the government to conduct a meticulous investigation to identify the sponsors of the killer-herdsmen some of whom, according to Mr Soyinka, have launched mercenary units to intensify carnage and chaos in order to avoid nemesis catching up with them.
“We shall move into questions, such as: what is a Minister of Defence, who openly justified the homicidal rampage of nomadic herdsmen, still doing in government? And there are other pressing and disturbing questions, some of which are held back for now, simply in order not to impede the pressing imperatives and humane priorities of the current crisis.
“Right now however, the agenda has to be restitution. Restitution to the displaced, the maimed, the traumatised survivors and the nation’s suppurating psyche.
“The torrent of Internally Displaced Persons is a national shame, and the growing number of the kidnapped, an embarrassment. The plane cannot remain on auto-pilot as hitherto, while the pilot strolls up and down the aisle, assuring passengers that all is well.”